While other buildings in downtown Dallas have been razed, prospects are bright for a historic building a little farther east. A three-story art deco structure at 508 Park that sat vacant and dilapidated for 20 years will be transformed into the hub of an event and gathering space called Encore Park.
Built in 1929, 508 Park was once occupied by Warner Bros., as a film exchange and studio where famous blues artists such as Robert Johnson recorded. It was previously considered unmarketable, partly because it's next door to the Stewpot, a community center run by First Presbyterian Church that provides medical services and counseling to Dallas' homeless population.
But the Stewpot bought the property in 2011, and it has been raising funds to create a multi-use social "campus" with a community garden, amphitheater and art space.
Encore Park researchers Alan Govenar, a Dallas historian, and sculptor Brad Oldham previewed the first phase of the complex on October 22 and will unveil it to the public with a weekend-long dedication from October 24-26.
The Stewpot, which has been helping the homeless since 1975, defines the objectives for 508 Park as a place where people of all cultures and walks of life will come together to experience and appreciate history, art and music. In the front will be an amphitheater; in the back, a community garden.
Among the art initiatives will be an art gallery, where 90 percent of the sales will go to the artist and 10 percent toward art materials. There'll also be a metal-casting program for Stewpot artists led by Brad Oldham International.
Music offerings will include a recording studio, 300-seat amphitheater for public performances, Stewpot musician talent show and a rooftop venue for a unique performance space. Film will include a screening room, outdoor movies and a film history exhibit.
The community garden will incorporate a learning center, horticultural therapy program, and eco-friendly practices such as solar energy and rainwater harvesting.
The dedication begins on Friday, with a 9 am worship service and, at 3:30 pm, a public unveiling of the multi-paneled sculpture wall. There'll be guided tours and a sidewalk sale of art created by the Stewpot's Open Art Program, followed by a performance by the Larry Lampkin Band at 4:30 pm.
On Saturday, the activities will center on gardening, with a legacy planting and sessions on bugs and growing in small places. On Sunday, there'll be more tours and afternoon performances by Bump City and JazzVespers. See the full schedule here.